Oregon Woman Suffrage History Month to Month

October 1911: Medford Mail Tribune Sees Hope for Oregon Woman Suffrage with California Victory

On October 10, 1911 California voters approved Proposition 4 in a special election and women in that state achieved the right to vote.

Oregon suffragists were watching. They had signatures for a November 1912 ballot measure in hand and that past May 1911 had formally launched the 1912 campaign.

On October 14, 1911 the editors of the Medford Mail Tribune in Southern Oregon published an editorial titled “Justice to Women in California.” They outlined reasons why they felt it woman suffrage was just, necessary, and a progressive step toward more complete democracy. The California victory meant that Oregon was surrounded by suffrage states. “Oregon alone among the Pacific states has refused to woman the right to cast a ballot,” they noted. “As Oregon is quite progressive in politics, it is not at all improbable that next fall will witness the triumph of equal suffrage here also.”

The editorial contained many arguments for woman suffrage that supporters would use in the upcoming campaign.

Woman suffrage was a “matter of justice.” It was also a “victory of popular government, for democracy.”

The editors countered the anti-suffrage argument that some women did not want the vote. “Whether or not women care to exercise the right if conferred upon them is no argument against what should be a birthright, and a duty.” And to the argument that women were not ready or able to vote, they countered: “Women are as well qualified as men to pass upon men and measures. Some are intelligent and some are fools. The average in mentality as well as in morality is probably as high in one sex as the other. The fewer the restrictions, the more the tendency toward discussion, education, and progress.

The editors believed in progress and argued that votes for women were a necessary part of that progress.

“In the progress of humanity,” they wrote, “woman has been regarded in turn as a chattel, as a slave, as a plaything, and finally as a companion and partner. Females have the same parentage as males and inherit the same abilities. It a man in any way superior in mentality to his mother, his sister, or his wife, simply because of the accident of sex? Why pretend to regard one half of the people as inferior to the other half?”

“In the evolution of the world towards Utopia,” the editors continued, “women are destined to play as large a part as men . . . Everyone must be given equal opportunity for development, including women, to fulfill dreams of a better world.”

Social inequality was based on the “fiction that males are superior beings to females.” But the editors were confident that change was in the works. Even “though prejudice and reactionaries may delay the day, eventually women will, the world around, be recognized as entitled to equal voice with men in the government of nations.”

Justice to Women in CA

“Justice to Women in California,” Medford Mail Tribune, October 14, 1911, 4.

Oregon suffragists must have taken heart in these expressions of support. The California victory strengthened their argument that Oregon was surrounded by progressive states and needed to catch up by providing for woman suffrage.

The Medford Mail Tribune editors’ belief in progress reminds us that the movement for woman suffrage was and is linked to the broad struggle for human rights across the globe: for civic rights, marriage rights, the rights of safety and freedom of expression for all people. It is a struggle in which we continue to be engaged.

—Kimberly Jensen

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Posted by history class on 10/02 at 06:39 AM

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